3) Rest for those who are suffering
Jesus offers rest for those in ministry. He offers rest for the doubters. Third, Jesus offers rest for those who are suffering.
John is beginning to doubt. So he sends out his disciples to ask Jesus, are you the Messiah? And the gist of what Jesus said in response is, remember those prophecies in Isaiah, those miracles are being fulfilled. Trust the prophecies. I am who I say I am. And that’s about it.
John brought his doubts to Jesus. John’s disciples return and report to John what Jesus said. And that’s the end of the dialogue. Jesus doesn’t even go visit John in prison. And we don’t hear from John again. But we do know that his circumstances didn’t change. In fact, things got worse. John suffered in prison and was eventually beheaded.
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John…
As soon as John’s disciples had left, Jesus begins to praise John in front of the crowds. Saying, this guy is tough. He left everything. He suffered. And his highest praise can be read in v11–
11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…
From Adam and Eve, throughout the Old Testament until John the Baptist, John was the greatest. In Jesus eyes, no other human being up until this point was greater.
And it’s interesting that neither John nor John’s disciples were within earshot when this praise was given. They didn’t hear it first hand or even second hand. Jesus could have said this while John’s disciples were still around, but he doesn’t. Don’t you think John would have been greatly encouraged to hear this praise? Yet, he doesn’t get to hear any of it.
Sometimes, the hardest thing is not knowing how God feels about you. Because we don’t get any audible affirmation. We have our doubts and doubts grow as the suffering gets prolonged.
If you are suffering and the only reason you are suffering is because of Jesus, if you feel stuck and imprisoned and the only reason you are stuck and imprisoned is because of your love for Jesus, you may not hear it directly, but know this. Know that behind the scenes, Jesus is praising you for it. He’s cheering you on. Rest in that. There is rest in the midst of suffering.
The good news for us is found in the second half of v11–
11 …YET he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
John the Baptist is the greatest who ever lived in human history up until that point aside from Jesus, of course, but all of us in this room have the potential to be even greater. Why? John doubted, is Jesus the Messiah? Because he had limited information. He didn’t know about Jesus dying on the cross and resurrecting on the third day to set people free once and for all from the bondage of sin and death. But for every one of us, even the least in the kingdom of God, all of us can be greater than Jesus because we have the full revelation. We have the New Testament. We know how the story is going to end.
John the Baptist had the unique privilege to prepare the way for the Messiah and the coming kingdom. But in a very real way, we are all far more privileged because the redemption plan of God is in full view.